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Two smart picks headline Chuck Fletcher’s first draft with the Philadelphia Flyers

With the 2019 draft in the books, how did the Flyers fare?

2019 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

When the Vancouver Canucks took to the podium and announced that they had selected Vasily Podkolzin with the tenth overall pick, it meant that the Flyers were on the clock. And with Cole Caufield still on the board, fans became excited at the prospect of the Flyers drafting him. But instead of making the pick, Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher decided to trade the pick to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for the 14th overall pick and the 45th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Understandably, there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment when the deal - that would later prove to be a key move - was announced, but with only three picks to go there was still hope that the 5-foot-7 sniper would still be there for the Flyers at pick 14. And what do you know, he was. With the pick submitted and Fletcher and co. only a quick walk away from announcing their selection, the anticipation grew.

Fletcher began, “Philadelphia is proud to select, from the U.S. National Team Development Program ...” This is it, they picked Caufield, we thought. He continued, “... Cam York.” Wait, what?

The reality of the situation was that if whichever player the Flyers selected wasn’t Caufield, a very vocal contingent of the fan base was going to be disappointed. It didn’t matter who they drafted, all that mattered was that they didn’t draft the player that they wanted them to draft. The player that we wanted them to draft.

This led me to wonder why we as fans — some, not all — felt so confident that they were going to pick “our guy” that anybody else was an immediate letdown. And what I realized made it make a lot of sense: in recent years “our guy” for their first pick in the draft was also their guy.

In 2015 the overwhelming majority wanted the Flyers to select Ivan Provorov seventh overall, which they did, and a year later while there was more of a split between German Rubtsov, Kieffer Bellows, and Max Jones, plenty of people wanted the first of the trio. The 2017 draft was layup, they were either going to draft Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick, totally dependent on whoever the New Jersey Devils decided not to take with the first overall pick, and in 2018 the majority was once again hoping for who they went on to select in Joel Farabee.

These picks also served as a bit of a buffer when lesser-known prospects at the time in Morgan Frost, and Jay O’Brien, would be selected later in the first round.

We’ve grown accustomed to being on the same page as the organization when it comes to their first draft selection, which, unless you’re picking within the top-five, doesn’t feel all that common. We weren’t the only fan base that wanted Farabee a year ago, nor were we the only fan base that wanted Caufield this year. But going into the draft with an “x” player or bust mentality, or something to that effect, is only setting yourself up for disappointment.

And their 2019 draft class is anything but disappointing. Especially their first two picks, the two that we’ll be focusing on more today.

Round 1, pick #14: Cam York

Position: Left-shot defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 175 pounds
Team: USNTDP, University of Michigan commit

With a number of defenders graduating to the NHL in recent years, the Flyers’ system was lacking a top-flight blueliner. At the same time, the organization’s defensive depth had also taken a hit, and Fletcher, along with Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr, focused on improving it by using three of their first four picks on defensemen. The first of the bunch, Cam York, became the team’s top defensive prospect the moment that the pick was submitted.

In York the Flyers added an extremely smart, mobile defenseman who is best described as an offensive defenseman, though his two-way game remains solid. He projects to be a top-four defender at the NHL level who excels in power play situations. While not as flashy - few are - his style and size will lead to him being compared to Shayne Gostisbehere. He may not reach Ghost’s level when it comes to creating offense, but it’s not a bad comparison to make. They defend in similar ways, relying on gap control and their ability to move the puck up the ice, and aren’t afraid to jump into the rush or pinch deep in the offensive zone.

I’m a big believer in drafting the best player available regardless of the organization’s positional need, but the Flyers felt that he was the best player available. He just so happened to also be the type of player that the team was lacking. In-fact, in the eyes of the organization he was a top-10 talent.

York was ranked 16th in Colin Cudmore’s (@CudmoreColin) consensus draft rankings that took into account 60 different scouting sources. This list can be found on SB Nation’s Senators site, Silver Seven Sens, and will be referred to again later.

And let’s not overlook the trade that they made on day one. Moving down three spots to add a second round pick was a huge get for the Flyers, who had entered the draft without one at their disposal. According to the draft pick value chart created by Michael Shuckers, the Flyers easily won the “value” battle in trading the 11th overall pick for the 14th, and 45th overall picks. Trading down doesn’t come without risks, but it’s generally a sound strategy in getting the most out of your draft.

Round 2, pick #34: Bobby Brink

Position: Right wing
Height: 5-foot-8
Weight: 165 pounds
Team: Sioux City Musketeers (USHL), University of Denver commit

For those who were hoping for Caufield, Bobby Brink should help soften the blow. He may not have scored 72 goals in 64 games with the USNTDP like Caufield did, but he did produce offense at a higher rate than the former did during each player’s time in the USHL. Brink’s 22 goals during 5-on-5 play ranks second in the entire USHL, tied for first among first-year draft eligible skaters, and his 34 primary points is good for third. He achieved all of this while playing in fewer games than those above him, making him one of the most productive even strength scorers in the league.

The main concern with Brink, and likely at least partially why he fell into the second round, is his skating. Described as “awkward” by some, Brink makes up for what he lacks in pure skating ability with his top tier offensive instincts. He’s known as more of a shooter than a passer, but Brink’s playmaking ability shouldn’t be understated. His ability to create offensive opportunities for his teammates may actually be more of his calling card than his shot itself.

Brink placed 21st overall in Cudmore’s consensus rankings and per those rankings he qualifies as the 5th-biggest steal of the draft. Every source included viewed him as a first round talent, ranking him anywhere from 15th to 29th. Of course there’s no guarantee that he becomes the top-six forward that many think he will be, but based on pre-draft information he was a true steal at pick 34. The Flyers entered the draft with one pick in the top-60 and left with two top-20 talents; it’s hard to find fault in that.

To get Brink, the Flyers had to give up some of the draft pick value that they added the night before, but it’s not hard to understand their decision to trade up. As the second round began the general consensus was that Brink and Arthur Kaliyev, who went to Los Angeles one pick prior, were the two players with the highest ceilings still available. The timing of the move did have me wondering if the Flyers were simply waiting for one of them to be chosen to then trade up for the other, but that’d be a risky game to play. Kaliyev going a pick before was probably coincidental, but either way it was clear that the Flyers’ view of Brink was in line with the public’s perception.

With two smart trades, two savvy picks, and a lot of betting on skill in the later rounds, Fletcher and Flahr’s first draft with Philadelphia looks promising.

Data used courtesy of Elite Prospects and Prospects-Stats.

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